PAPER KIDS (2015)
Shane Ryan has been a filmmaker who deserves to be recognized for his great craftsmanship, and his serious risk-taking content. But, secretly, I kinda want him to always be that struggling artist, dabbling on the fringes. Not being mean about it. It's just that his hunger and his unconventionality and his nonconformity and his unruliness and originality could just very well fade if he were to find success in the movie world.
I mean, look how success has tarnished a filmmaker like David Gordon Green. I think he's on his way back to sanity, now, with some nice projects in the works. But, when I saw George Washington and Undertow and All the Real Girls, there's no way I'd believe the crystal ball that showed his next batch of films would be comedies for Seth Green, Johah Hill and Danny McBride. That's just crazy. And I wouldn't wish that kind of dubiousness on Ryan. Well... I mean, I wish he'd have money to fund his work, and live a comfortable life, yes. But, I wouldn't wish Seth Green and James Franco upon anybody. That's just mean.
But seriously, it's Ryan's station in life that defines his great art. He's had a hard go at things, with a foster home childhood, being at the smashing fists' end of bullies, cutting, and lingering pain from serious injuries. Through this all, his art is never selfish. We never see him calling for attention, or begging for pity, or even drawing to himself. Instead, he asks for the audience to notice, and recognize the pain of those who suffer around us. Even with the more exploitative films, like the Amateur Porn Star Killer, Ryan escapes the glare of the shocking title and premise, to demonstrate the real life dangers that can befall our troubled youth, or our castaways. And then there are films like My Name is A by Anonymous, which brilliantly paints a portrait of a child who murders another child, where we are never asked to defend her actions, but rather asks us to understand her life, her troubled mind, and her desperation.
These are not easy films to watch. Ryan makes a habit of testing the audience, as he enlightens them. It's so easy to turn your head from the pain and degradation, and the sorrow and misfortunes, portrayed in a Shane Ryan film. But, for those who can brave the probing and disturbing themes, there is a reward in humanity. We are revealed the underbelly of our own lives, and of those around us, down the street, in the areas we don't dare tread. We are seeing this world, so that we can do something the fuck about it. Ryan never puts on a display for us to be entertained, but rather for us to wake up and look!
In this light, I highly anticipate the release of one of his new projects Paper Kids (aka God Git Ill). Ryan kindly gave me a sneak peak at a twenty minute short he's made of the larger project Got Got Ill, which he has released some teasers for over the past several months.
Paper Kids is a fictionalized flow of poetic scenery and shots, depicting the lives of a handful of trouble children. These are not the troubled children we are used to seeing in the Lifetime or Family Channel flicks, who break things and scream and torment others. These are quiet, introverted kids, who live down the block. They are the kids we choose to ignore, because they don't always look and dress like those we approve our own kids playing with. They're the kids we probably figure are not in the best of situations, but -- hey, we can't do anything about it. This is life. I got my own troubles.
In Paper Kids, each child has their own story that reveals itself, in true Ryan fashion, in beautifully captured images. this seems to be the understanding that the world we live in is really a nice place, with beauty all around. These kids certainly soak it all in, stopping to enjoy the fantastic view of fireworks, the electric joy of Christmas lights, the natural beauty of the sunsets. Not only is this beauty right there for us to see, with our eyes, but it's inside these unfortunate children, hidden in their hearts. But, we choose not to see that, because we get too wrapped up in judging the cover. We don't ever look long enough to see that their interior light is being slowly snuffed out by hateful or neglectful parents, peer pressure and shaming, or a million other things that we don't consider important to us. These are real kids, with real and important lives.
Paper Kids is poetic and real and shocking and tender, and very powerful. It gives the common person incredible insight into the world of the children we've decided aren't good enough for our own kids to play with. Like My Name is A by Anonymous, it is an important film that aims not for forgiveness or judgement, but for understanding and change.
These kinds of films, with lessons and ideas that aim to show the true
measure of a troubled childhood, are the kinds of films that we need to
see -- that our kids need to see -- in order for all children to to have
an equal chance at the life they deserve.
I think this is why I don't want Hollywood success for Shane Ryan. It's because, even with the struggles of our own common lives, we've still found much to insulate us from the harsher realities right under our noses. Knowing Shane Ryan, like I do, he would never lose that insight, or his heart. It's really that I don't ever want Hollywood to ever get to use his keen mind to make them more money.
But, seriously, someone please fund this guys work!!!